How to cite in APA when there are multiple authors

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This article covers how to cite a reference in APA style (7th ed.) when there are multiple authors. Broadly speaking, in an APA style “the ‘author” refers to the person(s) or group(s) who should be given credit for the work being referenced.

In-text citations when there are multiple authors

APA 7th ed. uses the author-date citation system for citing references in text. In parenthetical citations, this structure includes placing the author’s last name/surname, followed by a comma, and the publication year in parentheses. In narrative citations, this information is incorporated into the sentence.

Parenthetical citation for one author:

(Author Last Name, Year Published)

(Curtis, 2020)

Narrative citation for one author:

Author Last Name (Year Published)

Curtis (2020)

Two authors

For a work with two authors, include both authors’ last names in every in-text citation, whether narrative or parenthetical. In parenthetical citations, use an ampersand (&) between the authors’ last names.

Parenthetical citation for two authors:

(1st Author & 2nd Author, Year Published)

(Curtis & Williams, 2020)

Narrative citation for two authors:

1st Author & 2nd Author (Year Published)

Curtis & Williams (2020)

Three or more authors

For a paper with three or more authors, only enter the last name of the first author listed and add “et al.” after it. “Et al.” is Latin for the phrase “and others,” which is why it is used as a substitute for two or more authors’ last names.

Parenthetical citation for three or more authors:

(1st Author et al., Year Published)

(Harris et al., 2020)

Narrative citation for three or more authors:

1st Author et al. (Year Published)

Harris et al. (2020)

Group authors

The same guidelines for in-text citations apply when the authors of a source are a distinct group or organization such as a government agency, association, nonprofit organization, business, hospital, task force, or study group. To confirm whether a reference was written by individual author(s) or a group, check the cover or title page.

Hint: for an online resource, the author could be the name of the organization hosting the webpage or website, rather than the name of just one content contributor.

Before using an abbreviated group name as the author of your citation, spell out the abbreviation and define the group one time first in the text. Afterward, use the abbreviation of the group name throughout the rest of the paper.

Group author in-text citation examples:

First parenthetical citation with group abbreviation included: (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities [AJCU], 2020)

Subsequent parenthetical citations: (AJCU, 2020)

First narrative citation with group abbreviation included: The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities [AJCU] (2020)

Subsequent narrative citations: The AJCU (2020)

Avoiding ambiguity in in-text citations

Sometimes, in-text citations that have three or more authors, some of whom have the same last name, and the same publication year can look like they are the same reference when using the et al. abbreviation. For example, Curtis et al. (2020) could refer to

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, and Tyler (2020)

OR

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, Maxey, Key, Smith, and Esparza (2020)

To avoid this ambiguity and confusion for the reader, write out as many names as possible for the in-text citation until the references are distinguished, and then add “et. al” to abbreviate the other authors’ names.

Example:

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, et al. (2020)

OR

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, Maxey, et al. (2020)

When only the final author is different, list all of the names in every citation to avoid any confusion.

Example:

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, and Tyler (2020)

Curtis, Acres, Thomas, Henderson, and Esparza (2020)

Reference list  entries when there are multiple authors

APA has slightly different reference structures for different source types (e.g., book, website, journal article, etc.), but each structure generally includes the following:

Author last name, Author initials. (Date Published). Title. URL or DOI if available.

Need more help with citing a particular source? Find further guidance in this APA citations guide.

One or two authors

For references with one or two authors, cite using the four-part structure.

Two individual authors example:

Smith, J., & Jones, S. (1994). Making a movie star. Behind the Scenes Stories: A Journal of Celebrity Life, 44(2), 192–200. https://doi.org/l4nds0r

One group author example:

The American Marine Society. (2003). Whale mating patterns in the new millennium. The American Marine Society Magazine, 17-20. https://fams.gov/article/2003/whale-mating-patterns-in-the-new-millennium

220 authors

In APA 7th ed., up to 20 authors should be included in a reference list entry. Write out the last name and first initial(s) for each contributor.

2–20 authors example:

Wright, A., Komal, G., Siddharth, D., Boyd, G., Cayson, N., Beverley, K., Travers, K., Begum, A., Redmond, M., Mills, M., Cherry, D., Finley, B., Fox, M., Ferry, F., Almond, B., Howell, E., Gould, T., Berger, B., Bostock, T., Fountain, A. (2020). Styling royalty. London Bridge Press.

21+ authors

For references with more than 20 authors, after listing the 19th author replace any additional author names with an ellipsis ( … ) followed by the final listed author’s last name and first initial(s).

21+ authors example:

Wright, A., Komal, G., Siddharth, D., Boyd, G., Cayson, N., Beverley, K., Travers, K., Begum, A., Redmond, M., Mills, M., Cherry, D., Finley, B., Fox, M., Ferry, F., Almond, B., Howell, E., Gould, T., Berger, B., Bostock, T., . . . Booker, T. (2020). Eating well: Tips from 23 lifestyle authors. Food Magazine. https://foodmag.com/article/2020/tips-from-22-lifestyle-authors


Published October 28, 2020.

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